The Mufakose residential area, one of the oldest ghettos in Harare, is taking steps towards its former glory, thanks to the Mufakose Cleanup Network (MCN).
Once a hive of activity, Mufakose had lost its appeal due to criminal activities, uncollected waste and drug abuse. Teenage pregnancies, like in most high density areas, are very high. Community Centres that used to be the hub of recreation and entertainment have long become dilapidated. All this could soon be history.
Formed late last year by those who were born and bred in the community, the MCN has pledged to not only clean up garbage, but to help the suburb regain some of its prestige.
Its members are the people who consider Mufakose their home, even though they have moved to live in other places. MCN chairperson Agatha Chiseya explains, “We grew up in Mufakose. We spent the greater and best parts of our lives there. Our parents still live in Mufakose and we visit from time to time.”
Chiseya, who now lives in Chisipite, says that the current level of waste and drug abuse is worrisome and as former residents they would love to change the situation for good.
The organisation held its first clean-up in February at Gwenyambira shopping centre, the first shopping centre you meet when entering the suburb, and also the oldest. During the clean-up, over 80 residents and former residents, young and old alike, volunteered to clean up what had turned into a dumpsite. “The dumpsite was largely a result of the City of Harare’s (CoH) not regularly collecting refuse in the area,” said Chiseya. Residents from around the shopping centre were left with no option but to dump their refuse in a skip bin placed there by CoH for the purpose of collecting refuse from local businesses. Due to its limited capacity, the skip bin always fills up over a short space of time. The result? Garbage gets dumped beside it.
The clean-up campaign was held in conjunction with Environment Africa. “We received colour coded plastic bags and gloves from Environment Africa while Mufakose residents living in the diaspora gave us money for refreshment and to buy brooms and other cleaning material,” explained Chiseya. Environment Africa also offered free landscaping courses for the local youth.
As well as holding clean-up campaigns, MCN also plans to resuscitate recreational facilities. “The community centres such as Rutendo Hall kept us off the streets when we were kids,” says Chiseya. These were the same places that kicked off many sporting careers including that of famous footballers Memory Mucherahohwa, Karma Billiat and Stanley Ndundume. “Our mothers would also go for cooking lessons while young people received vocational training,” she added. Chiseya blames the lack of recreation now on drug abuse, lack of resources and unemployment.
MCN treasurer Noreen Nehumba says the organisation has had many offers from various stakeholders who want to give back to their community. “From Mufakose came many people who are very successful and they are willing to donate money to revive our facilities,” she said. Some former residents, now living in the United Kingdom, are planning to hold a fundraiser for MCN projects. Nehumba added that their funders would want transparency and CoH has failed to be transparent on many occasions. “People are there but they are reluctant to release their money to CoH. If the city officials would agree to us taking over the running of community centres then changes will come.”
The MCN is suggesting a partnership where CoH would oversee the running of recreational facilities while the community and MCN would be the active participants. “We even have various instructors who have volunteered to teach the youth different sports and recreational activities,” said Nehumba.
So far, through Ward 35 councillor Enock Mupamawonde, the CoH has offered to level the sporting fields that had been turned to agricultural lands by residents. This will be done after the residents harvest their crops. CoH also provided their garbage collection vehicles during the cleanup campaign and have pledged their support in the next clean-ups at other shopping and recreational centres.